When PPP polled Iowa in mid-April Barack Obama had negative approval numbers, was tied with Mike Huckabee, and led Mitt Romney by only 4 points in a state that he won by 10 points against John McCain in 2008. Now six weeks later Obama's fortunes in the state have shifted dramatically, symbolizing the uptick in his political fortunes we've seen throughout the country in the month since the killing of Osama bin Laden. He now has positive approval numbers, doesn't have to worry about Huckabee anymore, and has built his lead over Romney to a 9 point margin similar to what he won the last time around.
49% of Iowans approve of the job Obama's doing to 45% who disapprove. He is very polarizing along party lines with 84% of Democrats giving him good marks while 86% of Republicans think he's doing a poor job. That's par for the course for his Iowa numbers. What has him in better shape is a +14 approval spread with independents (52/38), which represents a 23 point improvement from our April poll when it was -9 at 41/50.
Iowa, along with North Carolina, is one of the swing states where it really hurts the GOP not to have Huckabee in the picture. He was easily the strongest potential nominee in the state, faring 2 points better than Romney against Obama when we polled it in January and 4 points better than Romney when we looked at it again in April. Romney now does the best of the Republicans in the state but he trails Obama by 9 points at 49-40, a margin almost identical to Obama's blowout victory in the state last time around.
Beyond Romney, Tim Pawlenty trails Obama by 12 points at 49-37, Herman Cain's down 18 at 50-32, Sarah Palin has a 20 point deficit at 55-35, and Newt Gingrich would start out behind by 21 at 54-33. All of those margins are much larger than Obama's +4 approval spread in the state and that's a reflection of the considerable unpopularity of the Republican field with Iowa voters. Romney's the most 'popular' but still has a -12 favorability spread at 35/47. Pawlenty's is -16 at 25/41, Cain's is -20 at 20/40, Palin's -34 at 29/63, and Gingrich's -44 at 19/63. If the GOP had any candidates voters liked the race would be a lot closer in Iowa right now...but they don't.
Obama's approval numbers in Iowa aren't that strong and it would certainly be premature to declare 17 months out from the election that he'll win the state again. But the numbers here are another reminder that the weak Republican field is his greatest ally as he moves toward reelection, and that the GOP will have to come up with a stronger candidate to have a serious chance of defeating Obama next year.
Full results here